Many people swear by the raw food diet. These people eat fruits and vegetables that have not been cooked. The underlying theory behind this diet is that cooking fruits and vegetables removes essential vitamins and nutrients.
Proponents of a raw food diet also claim that raw food prevents the buildup of toxins in the body, because raw food is eliminated from the body in about 24 hours—much less time than the 72 hours it typically takes for cooked food to pass through our digestive system. They argue this can prevent certain types of cancer and generally keeps our body working more efficiently.
Some adherents to this diet, however, have reported feeling a tingling sensation in their mouth when eating raw food. The sensation is minor, so some people just thought it was in their heads. It turns out that it’s a real medical condition, not just a figment of their imagination.
This tingling is caused by a pollen allergy in the body. It’s called oral allergy syndrome, and it can come on suddenly in people who may have never had a problem eating these foods before.
Raw fruits and vegetables contain proteins that actually look similar to pollen in the body. The immune system mistakes these proteins for pollen and begins fighting them off, causing that tingling sensation.
Some people have reported that the tingling sensation starts on the tongue, then travels into the throat as the person swallows the food. In some cases, the lips may also swell. This swelling and tingling typically passes in a few minutes.
The reaction is frustrating because it’s difficult to diagnose. The allergy won’t show up on tests to detect food allergies, leading to many misdiagnoses from allergists unfamiliar with oral allergy syndrome. Doctors do expect this condition to become more common as more and more people develop allergies to pollen.
The good news is that this condition is typically not serious. Doctors tend to advise people who experience oral allergy syndrome to avoid foods that cause this reaction. The trigger foods will differ in each person, so people will just have to try different fruits and vegetables to see which foods, if any, cause problems.
Doctors do, however, caution that people should contact an allergist if these symptoms get worse or if they notice symptoms while eating nuts. Since a nut allergy can be fatal, further testing should be done to determine what exactly is causing your reaction.
If your symptoms are minor, doctors recommend cooking or baking fruits or veggies to prevent an allergic reaction. If that’s not possible with a raw food diet, try peeling your foods before eating them. Most of the protein that causes these allergic reactions are found in the skin of fruits and vegetables. An oral antihistamine can also relieve minor symptoms caused by oral allergy syndrome.
Although doctors urge people to be cautious, this condition alone will not cause health problems. If you can tolerate some minor tingling while eating your favorite fruits and vegetables, you should be just fine.